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Dealing with Workplace Conflict: 4 Steps to a More Harmonious Work Environment

Dealing with Workplace Conflict: 4 Steps to a More Harmonious Work Environment

No workplace is free from conflict. In fact, one study discussed in the CPP Global Human Capital Report, which involved 5,000 workers across nice different countries, confirms this as it revealed that roughly 85 percent of all employees experience some sort of conflict in their careers.

To make matters worse, each person questioned reported spending just under three hours each week dealing with these types of issues, costing business owners around $395 billion dollar annually. Yes, billion. This makes workplace conflict not only unpleasant, but a financial burden as well.

What can you do to greatly reduce the amount of conflict in your small business, potentially saving you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars each year and creating a more harmonious work environment? Just follow these four steps:

Step #1: Lead by Example

If you are the type of person that constantly finds yourself involved in conflict, constantly yelling at or belittling employees when you don’t agree with what they say or do, then you may need to rethink your own issues before working to correct a disagreement or battle between members of your staff. After all, the more they see you respond negatively, the more likely it is that they will do the same.

On the other hand, if your employees see that you handle conflict with a calm and cool demeanor, always searching for the best solution for both sides, they are more likely to follow in your footsteps. This puts you in a great position to teach your employees how to effectively deal with situations when two people don’t see eye to eye.

Step #2: Address the Conflict

When a conflict occurs among your staff, addressing it is necessary to dissolving it. The longer you let it go, the worse it may get, creating a work environment that makes all of your other employees cringe. How do you best do this?

When faced with conflict among your employees, Lee Jay Berman, Los-Angeles based mediator and founder of the American Institute of Mediation, recommends that you “listen to understand.” This means that when the people involved in the conflict are speaking, you shouldn’t be formulating your response. Instead, you should be paying attention to what they are saying in an attempt to understand where they are coming from.

This serves a couple of different purposes. First, it lets the people vent, which is helpful in and of itself as it lessens their emotional charge. Second, it also helps you see why the conflict is occurring, allowing you to deal with it at its source, thereby potentially offering a longer term solution.

Step #3: Create a Positive Response

Once each person involved in the conflict has stated his or her case, it is time to formulate your response. The goal is to make it a positive one so that everyone involved walks away feeling as if they’ve learned something good in this seemingly negative situation.

One way to achieve this is to first state the things that you are pleased with. For instance, if one person walked away from the conflict when things got tense, thereby keeping things from getting out of hand, mention how you notice and appreciate their restraint. Or if the parties took their conflict to a private room as opposed to hashing it out in front of all of your other employees, thank them for their discretion.

This encourages positive behaviors while also allowing you to approach the subject of the disagreement without putting both parties on the defensive. When they don’t feel as if they are constantly working to defend their actions, they’ll be more open to listening to you as you devise the next course of action.

Step #4: Check in with the Parties

A few days or so after the situation has been dealt with, check back with the parties involved to see how things are going. This helps you figure out whether or not the conflict has been resolved, or if it has gone underground and is festering, waiting to be released in a way that is potentially damaging to you and them. It also tells your employees that you care about the work conditions and that you want to make your small business environment as pleasant as you possibly can.

Have you ever dealt with workplace conflict? If so, how did you resolve it in a positive way? Feel free to comment below!



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by Christina DeBusk // Freelance writer, author, and small business consultant committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve higher levels of success.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.